This just in from the Office for National Statistics (ONS); nearly a fifth of adults in the UK are going through depression or anxiety at any one given time. Frighteningly, that number is likely much higher. We think it’s safe to say that all of us have at one time or another experienced a form of low mood or mental duress, or has known someone who has. 

With the government intent on cutting funding to public health services, people are having to turn to more holistic means to take control of their mental health and wellbeing. Some of the most beneficial include yoga, meditation and mindfulness, and by now that’s well established. Somewhat surprisingly, gardening is increasingly getting mentioned in the same conversation, with reports suggesting 87% of people who garden for more than six hours per week feel happier. Let’s explore further. Here are 5 IDEAL ways gardening can help your mental wellbeing.

A NEW FOCUS 

While feeling depressed can make people find physical activity really burdensome, gardening can be a gentle way to give your mind an incentive to keep busy and on your feet. Tasks such as digging, mowing and planting can keep you occupied for hours on end and always thinking within a neutral framework, while sunlight can increase serotonin in the brain. On top of this, the relaxing ambience provided by being outside can leave you feeling rejuvenated. Even committing to caring for a mid-maintenance plant, such as a lime tree or lavender, can give your mind focus, and you will become invested in watching it grow.  

Psychotherapist and clinical director Dr Sheri Jacobson agrees; “being in the outdoors in more natural surroundings can help lift our mood as it brings a sense of simplicity and tranquillity which is therapeutic for many people.” 

QUALITY TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY

Depression is typically associated with feelings of isolation, but gardening with your family is a great way to reconnect with those around you in a familiar, calm setting. Placing the focus on something neutral and external can be a great way to get loved ones chatting again, on relaxed terrain. Most kids love the garden — and spending time with you, let’s not forget — so by creating little tasks to improve your garden, they will instinctively have fun which will help lift your spirits. Perhaps plant their own tree or build them their own little vegetable patch to nurture. Just delightful.

GROWING YOUR OWN VEGETABLES 

Many people enjoy growing their own produce, and even if you’re not a practiced gardener, you can grow your own vegetables with the right supplies. In many ways, the journey is more important than the destination here. Though the end product, picked straight from your garden and eaten with ultimate freshness is, of course, heavenly, the process of planting, cultivating and nurturing is its own reward. Indeed, it’s believed that producing your own food can help you reconnect with our planet, its seasons and rhythms; invaluable in an age of disconnect and digital overreliance. Tending to your crops will also provide enough light exercise — at your own pace — to boost your endorphin levels. It’s also thought that folate-rich foods, such as kale and spinach, can help lift your mood. So, what better way to boost yourself than growing it yourself? 

TAKE BACK CONTROL

A common feeling associated with depression is having a lack of control (or rather, feeling like you’ve lost control) and gardening can be a brilliant way to slowly reintroduce the concept of control and discipline through light-hearted tasks. Routine also assists in this sense of autonomy over your life; the garden requires such routine in spades.

A FLOWERY HAZE

A group of Japanese scientists have claimed that exposure to scented plants such as lavender can alter gene activity and reduce feelings of stress or depression. Yep, aromatherapy is used as a form of alternative medicine and relies on scents such as this to soothe and sedate. A brilliant alternative to lavender, if that particular scent isn’t your thing – is jasmine, which possesses a distinctive aroma said to promote sleep. Rosemary is said to help combat anxiety, help to improve air quality and boost memory function. Basically, there’s a scent or smell out there to suit each mood. If yours is low, get out there and amongst it.